Thursday, 21 September 2023

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Charles Yeo’s allegations on career progression of Minister Shanmugam’s son geoblocked in Singapore

The Ridout saga, which has gripped Singaporeans, began with a blogpost from Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary General of the Reform Party, on 6 May.

He revealed that Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan are renting Black-and-White colonial bungalows from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

While nothing is wrong with renting properties, the Ministry of Law, headed by Shanmugam, also the Minister for Home Affairs and Law, oversees the SLA.

This revelation sparked public concerns about potential conflicts of interest involving the Ministers. Despite SLA’s assurance that the matter will be addressed in the July parliamentary session, the public continues to demand further clarification.

In response to this outcry, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong instructed Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean to conduct a review.

Subsequent investigations by SM Teo and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) cleared both Shanmugam and Balakrishnan of any criminal wrongdoing or corruption in relation to the rental of these properties.

Adding fuel to the controversy is a post from Charles Yeo, a former Reform Party chairman and lawyer.

Yeo, currently seeking asylum in the UK and wanted by Singaporean authorities for jumping bail, has scrutinized the career progression of Shanmugam’s son on Instagram. Yeo linked this progression to Shanmugam’s move to the rented property at 26 Ridout Road.

Yeo suggested that a lucrative renovation deal for the new residence may have influenced Livspace, a company with a larger market capitalisation than Shanmugam Jr.’s previous employer, to hire him as Country Head and Head of Ops, despite him having no previous experience in the renovation sector.

The review by CPIB and SM Teo revealed that Shanmugam spent over $400,000 on property improvements, while SLA contributed $515,400 for refurbishments, which included a 25-metre swimming pool and a roundabout. Shanmugam also paid an additional $61,400 to build a car porch, with SLA serving as the developer.

While some speculate that Yeo insinuated that Shanmugam Jr.’s company was contracted for these renovations, records of past Gebiz tenders do not support this claim. Yeo’s allegations may instead relate to the home improvement works at 26 Ridout Road.

Despite these allegations, Shanmugam has neither publicly addressed them nor issued a POFMA direction against the post. This is unusual, considering his readiness to issue POFMA corrections in the past.

He recently dispelled an online falsehood about a walkabout in his constituency via Facebook, yet he has remained silent on Yeo’s claims.

Adding to the mystery, Yeo’s post appears to be geoblocked for viewers in Singapore, even without a POFMA direction from the Minister.

Online communities, such as Reddit and Hardwarezone, have noted this and are questioning both the validity of Yeo’s claims and the lack of a POFMA correction.

According to Instagram’s disclaimer of the blocked post, it noted that it had received a legal request to restrict this content.

“We reviewed it against our policies and conducted a legal and human rights assessment” wrote Meta and after the review, it restricted access to the content in the location where it goes against local law.

TOC has reached out to LivSpace for comments and will update the report once a response is received.

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